Child lead-testing requirement bill passes Michigan Senate

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(The Center Square) – The Michigan Senate on Wednesday passed a bill mandating lead testing for children between 12 and 24 months and, with parental consent, again between the ages of 2 and 6 years old.

Although the state already mandates lead testing for Medicaid patients, doctors and clinics are not required for children not covered by Medicaid. Early childhood exposure to lead has been proven to damage the brain and nervous system, slow growth and development, exacerbate learning and behavioral problems, and cause hearing and speech issues.

Michigan ranked third highest in the nation for elevated blood lead levels in children in 2021.

Sen. John Cherry, D-Flint, introduced the bill, which aims to assist parents determine whether their child has been exposed to lead.

“We know early childhood exposure to lead has been a major issue in Flint and continues to pose a threat around our state, which is why we need to tackle this problem on multiple fronts, including during regular healthcare checkups,” Cherry said in a statement. “By making sure physicians are catching lead exposure in children as early as possible, parents can be sure they are taking the steps needed to help their child live a healthy and happy life, preventing further harm as much as possible.”

Senate Bill 31, if it becomes law, will mandate:

Universal lead testing at 12 and 24 months and, if no test is on record for those ages, then between 24 and 72 months. Universal testing of 4-year-olds that live within a geographic region that poses a higher risk of lead poisoning.Universal testing if a child lives in a home that was built before 1978, or one where other children have been diagnosed with lead poisoning.Require that a minor must be tested at more regular intervals if a physician determines they are at risk of childhood lead poisoning based on the factors above.

“Lead poisoning has been a severe threat in the neighborhood I raised my family in, in the city I love and the legislative district I serve, and in communities across the state. I have been working throughout my time in the Legislature to address the dangers of lead, from improving our water infrastructure and safety to establishing universal testing as this bill does,” Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said in a statement. “Our Senate Democratic Majority continues to focus on pressing issues like this that protect our kids, families and communities, keep them safe and healthy, and enable them to thrive in every sense of the word.”

The bill has the support of a number of organizations and advocacy groups, including Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, the Ecology Center, the Michigan Nurses Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health Detroit Lead Parent Advocacy Group, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Authority Health, the Michigan League for Public Policy and the Michigan Environmental Council.

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, the bill if passed will have a minimal impact on state spending. However, it notes the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “would incur costs as a result of increased administrative activities from promulgating rules to implement the required testing for lead poisoning and then reviewing the rules after five years,” but adds: “The costs would be borne by existing DHHS resources.”

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